Posts tagged ‘parenting’

Quick…Tell Me Where to Turn

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Marie and I attended a baby shower for a cousin today, and had a fabulous time. For an activity, they decorated baby onesies. Marie, who is very artistic with fabric paint, designed six. Each one had a fabulous design and appropriate wording-for HER. My favorite was a picture of the dad. She perfectly captured his beard, big, bright smile and curly hair. His blue eyes actually had a gleam in them, and his cheeks were pink with excitement. On it she wrote: “Happy daddy, baby boy yes”, replicating how the words are signed in ASL. This for a new dad who did not yet know the sex of his child!

Driving the 45 minutes to the restaurant, Marie was in charge of the GPS. She loves it when I give her this “job” because it keeps her active during the drive. Previously when riding in a car, Marie would try to sign to me, but I have to keep my eyes on the road and taking my hands off the wheel is problematic. The problem was solved by making her my navigational guru. She takes her job very seriously. She motions me into the proper travel lanes, and tells me when and where to turn. It is especially tricky when driving in a city as we were today. “In 2 tenths of a mile take a left.” Left here. she points. “In 4 tenths of a mile take a right”. Right there, she motions. We efficiently executed the twists and turns to perfection, and she was very proud of her directional skills when we arrived. Should I ever tell her that the GPS was also talking to me?????

Bring the Fattened Calf; The Prodigal Son Returns

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The holiday season joyously reunites my family! Although Francis is not entirely a Prodigal Son, he is the one son who moved out of state to seek his fame and fortune. Having his Ph.D. from Cambridge specializing in Human Computer Interaction, he has found a fruitful niche among the computer conglomerates in Silicon Valley, California. He has purchased a modest half-million dollar home, (very much similar to the small ranch style homes back east, only less yard and much costlier.) He married an amazing woman who can DRIVE and for whom his vision impairment is not an issue. They recently had a one of a kind baby; a baby so pure and white and bald that she resembles an Alien. (Ooooops! I didn’t just say that, did I?) The best thing is, he comes home every Christmas!

Preparing for his arrival takes a lot of work. Being somewhat of an advocate for letting dust live out its life where it lay, I spend the month before his arrival cleaning; the usual spots, of course, but also those spots not generally covered in a regular cleaning; washing and waxing the cabinets, washing all of the walls so they look as clean as the day they were painted, cleaning under the soap dish in the bathtub, pulling out every speck of dust hiding under the radiators, and cleaning “his” bedroom so clean that it could be considered a sanitary room for a person undergoing a bone marrow transplant. I’ve added a rocking chair for baby to feed lovingly and comfortably. The sheets with flowers are washed with “spring” fabric softener, giving them a sensational floral scent, perfect for a multi-sensory feel. (Yes, sniff in the scent. It is a happy, welcome home scent!)

The decor of my home is generally early mishmash, but when Francis comes home, the walls are decorated with a multitude of photos of all of our children, hastily put together from photos from Facebook. (It is something I mean to do all year but never get around to doing.) The Christmas tree and house decorations are pulled from the bowels of the cellar, decorated and placed in traditional places. Same candles in the window as when Francis was a child, same tree, same decorations including the nativity scene that Francis enjoyed rearranging when he was a child. (He loved to put the donkey in the manger and lay the Wise Men down for a nap after their long hike.) All reminiscent of Christmas’ past.

Hubby, who is generally an excellent cook anyway, also prepares for the special visit. He makes seafood casserole, baked stuffed lobster, “stuffies”, prime rib (sorry fattened calf,) lasagna,and baked ham. For Christmas, we have a traditional turkey dinner, with Marie leading us in saying grace in sign language, joined in by all, (except Francis’ new wife who has not yet caught up in communicating with Marie.) The week is a gastric feast like no other, and poundage is added to us all.

For this one week of Francis’ visit, “normal” life is put aside for a week of conversation, a clean house, a joyful present exchange, visits to nearby sights of interest, (the ski area with the tubing hill, the amazing number of Christmas lights on houses that spend thousands of dollar on decorations, the local breweries, the wild, ravaging waves of the ocean, and, of course, Dave and Buster’s.)

Francis and his little family will be leaving tomorrow and life will be back to normal. I will miss him. And I will be waiting for his return next year!

Do any of you have prodigal children who return for the holiday? How is it for you?

A Special Birthday

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I sat in church this morning and watched the annual Christmas Pageant put on by the children in Sunday School. This tradition is always a treasure to see, especially when one of my own children had a starring role, such as Francis’ turn as a Wise Man, a role he “rocked” because he is super tall and regal and he is great at leading the way using a staff, (for his blindness); or Dinora’s role as Mary with her long black hair and wide, innocent eyes; or Angel’s turn as, what else, an angel. Although there was a myriad of rejoicing angels, only his had a wide, bright smile and a comical, rhythmical walk down the aisle. (Yes, Angel will do anything to stand out from the crowd.) As a mom, pride would burst from me and tears would form in my eyes as I watched my children participate in this holiday portrayal of the birth of Christ.
Today was different for me. My children are no longer of age to directly participate in the production this year, and I thought my feelings about it would be different. But they weren’t! I was still tearful as I was caught up in the gentle story of Mary and Joseph in the barn, standing in the stable until Mary collapsed in the hay to give birth to her Son. And the animals who engulfed children, their heads peaking out through costumes of a donkey, goat, and cow, who stood on the stage trying not to trip because the animal bodies were interfering with their vision. Then the shepherds were coming down the aisle, carrying stuffed sheep and being followed by toddlers wearing sheep hats, white fur and white gloves, baaaa baaaaa baaaaing like sheep. The angels coming, wings and halos and white robes, singing, dancing joyfully down the aisle, sashaying and waving the arms as though dancing to the movie “Frozen”. And then the three wise men, not lead by a tall, regal child like Francis, but led by a solemn young boy with glasses, grasping his Frankincense carefully, so as not to drop the treasure. And when they all arrived, they sang “Away in a Manger”. Then, like the Keystone Cops, they arranged themselves in front of the manger, in a timely fashion, each raised a letter to spell out a special song, a non-religious song, a wonderfully inspired song; “Happy birthday, dear Jesus”. They were wide eyed and joyful and full of the love of this new baby, Christ, who on the day of his birth changed the world for all of us.

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To Be Joyful with So Little

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When Dinora and I visited her birth place, Guatemala, we spent some time with moms who were working picking coffee beans. They toil all day while their children play nearby. Prepared for this visit, Dinora had a backpack full of little toys; small dolls, Matchbox cars, bouncy balls, toy rings, and so forth. (Above is a picture of a little girl clutching a small ring in her hand, so pleased with her gift.) The children were amazingly polite. Each child would gather around Dinora as she gave them each a small toy. Taking it delightfully appreciative into their little hands, they smiled shyly and stepped back to leave room for others to come forward. They didn’t crowd her. They didn’t ask for more, more, more. They reveled in the joy of that tiny toy! Sheer happiness!

It made me realize that more and expensive and better isn’t the right Christmas concept for children as they may not fully appreciate their multitude of blessings. If only they could experience the happiness on Christmas that those children among the coffee bean trees exhibited. Pure joy! What a concept!

All It Took was a Few Daisies

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Things have not been going so well lately. Marie has been in the hospital for trying to swallow a box of staples during a PTSD episode. (The pain of the memories was just too much.) The staples, thankfully, passed through and did no damage, but her recovery from the incident has not passed so easily. She is sad and shaky as she works through her most recent memory, that of a “john” pulling a gun on her mother. She remembers hiding under the bed and watching in terror as his footsteps thumped by, sure he would find her and kill her at any minute.

Steven has had a similar fate. As a young adult, he chose not to take his medication anymore. He didn’t like it because it made him feel “sleepy”…instead he is hyper, agitated, argumentative, obsessed and out of control. When you have a mental illness when you are a child, you are hospitalized and given great care. When the same thing happens when you are an adult, you are arrested for domestic violence and thrown in jail. Not the best situation, and extremely difficult for a parent to handle. (Yes, I am being selfish thinking of how this affects me.) Maybe when he is released he will agree to take his medication again, medication which has enabled him to live a full and relatively happy life. Medication which has calmed his OCD and aggression. Medication which has smoothed out the wrinkles in his brain created by in utero exposure to cocaine, heroine and alcohol. Medication which has made our family life “normal”.

Yesterday, (Thanksgiving) was a solemn day for our family, missing two of our beloved children. In preparation for the day, I had cleaned the house as my husband had shopped and prepared the food. I had hoped to get to the store for a floral centerpiece to add some happiness to our table, but time just didn’t allow. Setting the table, I felt sad, abandoned, and empty inside, unfamiliar feelings for me. Just as I was allowing the despair to set in, there was a knock at my front door. There stood a middle aged woman dressed in a neat, black coat. I didn’t recognize her at first, but as soon as she introduced herself, I remembered that she had a child in the same class as Steven ten years ago. I forced a smile and asked her how she was. She had been thinking of me, she said. She remembered me from all those years ago and she remembered the challenges our children faced. She had made me a beautiful floral centerpiece for our Thanksgiving table! She said she knows how hard it is for her to raise one child with mental illness, and that she has admiration for me raising several. I thanked her and held back tears as I hugged her tight.

This amazing centerpiece is filled with bright orange mums, cheery yellow daisies, and red roses, whimsically arranged with a big Thanksgiving Day bow. Looking at it, I can’t help but smile. It is beautiful! It is hopeful! It is joyful! It was just what I needed to get me out of my despair and realize that this, too, shall pass. And the reminder came from a woman who was almost a stranger to me. I am so thankful for the timing of her thoughts of me.

She LOVES me! She really LOVES me! (not…)

Anyone who is raising a child with reactive attachment disorder knows that love and caring is not always reciprocated. In fact, often the children are so hostile that we wonder what we are doing wrong and what have we gotten ourselves into? Raising Marie has been like that. Coming to us from living with a mom who allowed unspeakable abuse, Marie was not ready to love anyone. Not letting me touch her, in fact, shoving me away or hitting me if I tried, it took six months for me to reason with her that I needed to have a way to show her that I loved her. She graciously allowed us to fist bump. Our fists met with a minimal amount of touching as I signed “I love you” in American Sign Language with the other hand. As a mom, I desperately needed to be able to share my love with her, whether she accepted it or not.

Through the years, she allowed me to hug her. I would put all of my love forth in that hug, deep, sincere, emotional… Whether she actually got any of that through osmosis, or whether she just tolerated my hug, I never knew. But I felt better doing something to demonstrate my love.

When she was about 14 years old, we were at a carnival and she spotted a photo booth. She had always been fascinated with these contraptions, and she grabbed me by the hand and pulled me over to it, sticking her other hand out for the money to put in it. As we sat inside the booth and the camera clicked, a miraculous thing happened…she turned and KISSED me on the cheek. Whether it was her excitement over the photo booth, (and the demonstration photos on the side of people kissing,) or whether she really felt an emotion and wanted to kiss me, I’ll never know. But I choose the latter. In the picture below, you can see the emotion on my face as she does so. After SEVEN long years!

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Well, a couple of years have gone by, and she and I regularly hug and kiss (she offers me her cheek.) Not much had changed in that department. UNTIL I went to the open house at her school. She saw me walking down the corridor while she was standing with a group of friends. She came galloping towards me, wrapped her arms around me with such force that I almost fell over, and gave me a huge kiss ON THE LIPS! Then she proudly told everyone that I was her mom. SHE LOVES ME! SHE REALLY LOVES ME!

I Didn’t Know Cats Could Swim Redux

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I am very crabby today…went to the dentist. Dentists conjure up very bad memories of pain. Living with a “crazy” dad who loved to eat candy, cookies and pies, along with limited encouragement for good dental hygiene, I had many cavities as a child. When having the cavities fixed, the dentist did not use Novocain. (Either that or my parents would not pay the additional expense for Novocain because my dad was obsessively cheap.) At any rate, I equate going to the dentist with torture. Even though I am grown now, and the dentist DOES use Novocain, the experience in general is very stressful and causes me much crabbiness. Needing a boost out of my bad mood, I tried to think of something that would make me smile. Thus, I am repeating a post I did more than a year ago. One that made me giggle. One that I will share again with you…

Because my youngest daughter, who is deaf, goes to school out of state, I sometimes rent a hotel room for myself, my oldest daughter and her son, Alley (Alejandro) to visit together.  Last weekend was one such weekend.  I love to see the interaction of the three of them, Dinora signing in ASL to Marie and Alley trying to copy the signs with his small hands.  (He explains that Marie can’t talk because her ears are broken, so she has to use her hands…)  His favorite sign, “swimming”,  is used often because he wants them to spend all of their time together in the hotel pool.  It was during one of their swims, while I was sitting in the lounge chair by the pool, sipping a nice tall plastic cup of Diet Coke, and smiling while the three of them frolicked, that I was overwhelmed with a feeling of joy in my heart. They were beaming with laughter and exuding a happiness that one could not overlook…a deep, profound happiness which doesn’t often come to Marie. Seeing her eyes glint with laughter, tears stung at the back of my eyes, then slowly slipped down my cheeks.  To think that a child who had been so severely abused as she could come through all of that darkness and  despair to ultimately be able to experience such joy made my heart want to explode with love for the three of them.  I could not remember ever having been so content in my life, but my reverie was soon disturbed, but not unpleasantly…

My tears of joy were soon replaced by tears of laughter.  Alley came out of the pool and looked around…  “Where’s the cat pool?” he asked.  “The CAT pool?  There is no cat pool!” I replied.  “Yes! Yes!  In hotels there are sometimes CAT pools!” he argued, frustrated that I could not understand what he was asking. “You know, the pool for the kitties.”     Ah!  The KIDDY POOL!

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To read about Marie’s early childhood, here is a link to my book:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

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